Year B — Trinity Sunday

Commentary for June 3, 2012
Click here for today’s readings

Isaiah 6:1-8
I don’t know that any of us will ever be able to capture or imagine the awe and terror of Isaiah’s vision of a visit to the throne of the Lord. The hem of God’s robe fills the temple; now that’s a big robe!

Seraphim are there, hovering and shouting (though we often think of angels “singing,” the text never really says that they sing.)

The house is shaking and there’s smoke everywhere — much more dramatic than our sanctuaries on most Sundays, I’d say. 

The cumulative effect is that Isaiah comes quite undone. “Woe is me,” is the best hymn of praise that he can squawk out. Something about truly seeing God as holy reminds us deeply and painfully that we are not.

And, yet — the call of God comes: “Who will go for us?” Since there’s nobody else present, Isaiah steps us with one of his most famous lines: “Here am I (gulp); send me.”

The old evangelist used to say, “When it comes to the call of God, it’s not your ability God is interested in. It’s your availability!” I kind of like that, even if it makes me nervous!

Psalm 29
The psalm text offers accompaniment and counterpoint to Isaiah’s grand vision of God.The emphasis is on the commanding, calling “voice of the LORD.”

This voice is not for the faint of heart, yet it is a source of both strength and peace.

Romans 8:12-17
Our readings in Romans 8 continue, opening doors to yet more aspects of the limitless, ever-present Spirit of God. 

  •  The Spirit leads and guides
  • The Spirit “puts to death” our fleshly inclinations
  • The Spirit does not lead us to fear
  • The Spirit allows us to cry out to God, as a young child to a loving, trustworthy father
  • The Spirit assures us that we are, indeed, children of God

John 3:1-17  
We have encountered portions of this reading already through the church year; there is much of note in this third chapter of John’s gospel. On Trinity Sunday, however, perhaps the center of the text is found in v. 8:

“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

One of the most difficult illusions for we human beings to give up is that of control over our lives. Experience teaches us that there are really very few things that are within our capacity to control.

Certainly, we do not control the Spirit of God — anymore than we can control the wind. (As I write these words, we are entering the “hurricane season” in Florida with a tropical storm just off the coast. If you’ve ever survived a hurricane or similar natural disaster, you realize just how little control you have!)

That image helps me connect to Isaiah’s experience in our first reading. His experience of God was somewhat out of control, to the point of being terrifying. Much like the roaring of hurricane-force winds and the sound of trees splitting or being ripped up by their roots.

May we not forget the power we are dealing with when we blithely mention the presence of the Spirit, pronouncing the Spirit’s blessings on the lives of those to whom we preach and with whom we minister.

Sermon
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday. Brief attempts to explain the Trinity remind me of my Daddy’s sister, Aunt Mildred. She talked on the phone with her friends a lot; a whole lot. The family joke was that she ended every conversation with the line, “I would tell you more, but I already told you more than I heard myself.”

Our Scripture lessons all make some sort of reference to a trinitarian understanding of the nature of God. Isaiah contains the line, “holy, holy, holy,” which can be stretched into a reference to the trinity if one is so inclined.

Romans says things about crying “Abba, Father,” and being a “joint heir with Christ,” and the “Spirit of God” letting us know that we are children of God.

John’s Gospel contains Jesus’ famous conversation with Nicodemus about being “born from above” and “born of water and the Spirit,” and most memorable of all, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

Nowhere do we find the word trinity or an explanation of how God is both three and one at the same time. Like I said, we have to be careful not to say more than we heard ourselves.

Me, I’m lazy. I use golf theology. Used to play golf with a minister friend of mine and we came up with the term.

We got to thinking about all the people we knew who spent a lot of time on the golf course complaining about their lie, or trying to improve their lie, legally or, most often, illegally and sneakily, moving the ball out of sand traps and from behind tress when they thought no one was looking.

Or they were obsessing about their score, or they were trying to improve their score, or they were lying about their score, etc.

And we realized that neither of us worried too much about all that. We were just glad to be out of the office and out on the golf course, whacking away at the ball in the general direction of the hole.

Then, being preachers, we started thinking of all those pastor friends we knew who were always trying to improve their theological lie, trying to make things make better sense, etc. And we decided that we were golf theologians; we preferred to take things as they came, to play it as it lay, to whack away in the general direction of heaven.


So, rather than spend a lot of time on the philosophical understanding of the Trinity, I prefer to think a lot about the Trinity’s implications for the Christian life.

I like to meditate on the fact that God exists in community, in a family, a family of equals who share one calling and goal and life, but exist within that community and family as unique individuals who are stronger together than they could ever be apart.

That helps me understand the notion of the church better, because if we’re made in the image of God and God needs community, then it makes sense that we need community too; a community that is called together to move in the same general direction, loving each other and serving the world.

And sometimes when I think about the Trinity, I think about how each of us have different spiritual personalities and how some of us respond to Abba, the Father, the Creator, and how others of us really relate to God in Christ, the Son. There are many others who are touched deeply by the Spirit.

It just fascinates me how the idea of the Trinity manages to touch all those spiritual bases and keep them all in balance.

Our calling on Holy Trinity Sunday, is neither figuring out the Trinity nor explaining it.

Our calling is to live the Holy Trinity in our lives and in the holy and loving community we call the church.

AMEN

4 thoughts on “Year B — Trinity Sunday

  1. I had a similar thought as I read the scripture – We have these readings that cry out "holy!" and leave us in wonder about how great God is: Creator, Spirit and Son. I can't help but wonder what is my response to God's greatness as revealed in the Trinity. I am ordained to the transitional deaconate this Saturday – Trinity Sunday is my first sermon as an ordained person. I shall approach it in my best putt-putt golfing theological style. Bless you, Bubbas!

  2. I really appreciate how you connected Isaiah to the other texts, and thinking about we recognize (or fail to recognize) our lack of control in our lives, especially when it comes to trying to control God's Spirit!

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